Circa Waves are what many would describe as the perfect summer festival band. Placed next to their peers, they aren’t as snobby as Catfish And The Bottlemen or completely out of touch with reality as The 1975; they’re just four lads from Liverpool strapping on their guitars and pumping out some lightweight, breezy indie. Hell, T-Shirt Weather, arguably their biggest song to date, is about little more than reminiscing about the scant moments of UK summer. As a result, Circa Waves have gained the steadfast reputation of being the go-to indie act to star on many a summer playlist.
Or rather, they were. The thought process behind this is fairly clear – the typecasting as perma-sparky sun-chasers was clearly caught wind of, and Different Creatures serves as Circa Waves’ rebuttal. And that title isn’t just there because it sounds cool either. As such, this sophomore album has callbacks to Blur’s most bombastic stripes (horns and all) on Old Friends, scratchy, Beatles-esque balladry on Love’s Run Out and even a few shades of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here draped over Out On My Own. If their debut was a quick-fix festival burger, Different Creatures is the equivalent of a medium rare steak, a lot meatier and definitely more satisfying.
The fact that Circa Waves can actually do justice to this sort of shift is probably the most surprising thing here, as there’s a sizable gap in terms of sound and tone between this and their debut. It’s definitely a fair bit darker, with more gritty guitar lines on tracks like Fire That Burns, and whirring, filling synths on A Night On The Broken Tiles creating some palpable tension that works really well. Even in the lyrics there’s a clear pivot away from picturesque throwbacks into territory that’s a lot more real and uncertain – lead single Wake Up is literally about the worries faced about how well this new direction will go down with old fans. Elsewhere, Stuck punches up against the monotony of the everyday grind, while Fire That Burns and Goodbye return to the fertile ground of relationships, but focusing in on the tumult and pressures experienced. The fact that this level of realism is present makes Different Creatures a greatly compelling listen, and shows that Circa Waves might be even more proficient at this sort of sound than what they were delivering in their previous incarnation.
And given the odd moments where they do hark back to that sound, it’s a realisation that becomes even more evident. They’re not bad songs but definitely don’t hit the same watermark as this album’s best – Crying Shame is a basic but inoffensive love song, though the closing chorus line “I’d jump in front of a moving car just to make your day” injects some melodrama that isn’t needed whatsoever, and while the sentiment of Love’s Run Out is admittedly sweet, the lazy acoustic line and paper-thin vocals just can’t leave an impression. But again, neither of them are really that bad, such is the case with Different Creatures‘ entire tracklisting; the only real low point is Kieran Shudall’s vocals, with his nasal bleats unable to capture the grit and presence of the album at its best.
It’s really the only thing that stops Different Creatures from being a great album rather than a very good one, but as an achievement itself, this represents a step in the right direction for Circa Waves. Rather than waiting until an inevitable staleness sets in before even contemplating a shake-up (again, Catfish And The Bottlemen), Different Creatures is a nice change of pace whose proactivity only makes it work even better. And sure, it won’t be among the year’s best, but it at least shows that Circa Waves aren’t the throwaway band their debut could easily seen them attributed as.
For fans of: Blur, Catfish And The Bottlemen, The Vaccines
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Different Creatures’ by Circa Waves is released on 10th March on Virgin EMI.